Events & emotions…

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I’ve been a bit quieter than normal around here. Nothing dramatic, just too many events and emotions getting in the way.

The weeks before Christmas are not my favourite. A show-reel of ‘the perfect Christmas’ plays on a loop in my head, with an accompanying voice-over insisting that this is the way it should be, and it is entirely up to me to make it so for my family, with goodness knows what consequences if I fail.

Completely daft, I know that – but I have to keep reminding myself, and I’m not always successful.

So forgive me if I’m even quieter for a while.

There are a couple of bloggers who I follow, who are living through the really difficult time of bereavement at the moment and to them I apologise for not leaving a comment with you, but send you my heartfelt thoughts and very best wishes. 

-)O(-

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Turning brown…

We seem to be having an odd autumn around here. I watched our local avenue of horse-chestnuts change from green to dusty brown without stopping at all in any part of the yellow/gold spectrum. Red seems to have been missed out almost completely – except for the holly berries which are trying very hard to fill the void. There are a few trees attempting to play the game, but it’s a half-hearted effort.

Then last week, the acres of green bracken suddenly turned a washed out beige.

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Already though, this has begun to change, as the first light frost, followed by hours and hours of heavy rain, has started to turn the bracken black. And now it is all beginning to sag. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday that I was excitedly spotting the tightly curled emerging fronds, and now the vast growth, taller than me in lots of places, is all about to sink back to the ground.

Melancholy is supposed to be the emotion of the month, but I try hard not to go down that road – it can be too hard getting back. Instead I like to enjoy the changes.

I can already sense the woodland opening up as the leaves start to fall in greater amounts and the floor changes from a green mattress to a scrunchy brown and gold leafy carpet. Soon we’ll have a heavier frost and wake up to a spangled scene. And in the meantime, I relish the mornings when the sun streams through the canopy…

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Impossible to feel melancholy with all that going on.

 

 

-)O(-

 

 

Last week we…

Is it me, or do these school holidays seem to come around faster and faster?

Last week was a bit of a whirlwind. Number Two daughter was in Paris on a school trip until Friday, so Number One daughter and I went around and about. We managed a trip to London – culture and shopping again – we’re getting good at it. Then a visit to Stowe Landscape Gardens near Buckingham (I’ll post about that on Mists of Time as soon as I have a chance), and then we decided that we should carve a pumpkin, even though Number Two wasn’t going to be back in time to enjoy the trick or treaters.

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And then, on Saturday, the highlight of our week – perhaps the highlight of our year – we went to Stratford, to see David Tennant in Richard II.

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We booked the tickets so long ago, we’d had a lot of time to get excited about it, but in the event, it was even better than any of us could have hoped. I have absolutely no problem in admitting that it was the attraction of our almost all-time favourite Dr Who (I’m of the Tom Baker generation), that made us go along to what you’d have to say is not perhaps the top of the Shakespeare picks, but oh my goodness, how brilliant it was.

Our party included two fifty-something ladies, a seventy-something lady, two middle-aged men and four teenage girls, and each one of us came away absolutely enthralled. In my opinion, nobody does Shakespeare like the RSC – so many people think that Shakespeare is difficult to understand, but go to the RSC productions and they make it entirely understandable – if our teenagers knew what was happening, anyone could – simply marvellous.

So if having someone like David Tennant in the cast is what it takes to bring in the next generation of Shakespeare lovers – that’s fine by me. (Oh and he was incredibly good – of course).

Back down to earth now…

 

 

-)O(-

 

Time…

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I’m fascinated by the ways in which we visualise time, especially the passage of time. Although we’re used to seeing circular clock faces, with the hands turning round, ending up back were they begin, I suspect that many of us think of time passing as a linear progression – from now to then will be a straight line moving away from the start point.

If we think about history – do we consider that events happened in the distance – further away from us the longer ago they happened?

If  we think about our lives, do we consider them to be linear progressions – and if we’re over fifty, do we think in terms of more behind than in front?

For ages now, I’ve been wondering about other ways to visualise time. The one that appeals to me is the circular progression.  Here, instead of imagining life moving forward, I see it turning, through the four seasons, coming back to the start point, but now enfolding the experience of the events lived through those seasons – the good, bad and ugly. In this way, each new turn in the season sees us having within us all that which has already gone before – just as a tree adds a ring with each year that passes, some rich thick rings, some meaner, thin rings – but with the whole tree growing wider as time turns, containing within it, all that it has experienced.

I like to think of myself like that – embracing the cycle of the seasons and the cycle of life, growing all the time and benefiting from everything that happens as I go round. And from this perspective, as we get older, we have more within to sustain us, who knows, maybe getting a bit wiser each cycle?

Of course if you take the analogy too literally, you see yourself getting fatter too – oh well…

 

 

-)O(-

 

 

Dollops of culture…

I really like Julia Cameron’s advice in The Artist’s Way, to set yourself regular time out, to do things that rejuvenate your creative spirit. And of course like a great many of us, it’s my ‘time out’ that is too often sacrificed when family life takes over. But I think I can go straight to the top of the class this September, because what I need to make time for, are opportunities to grab a little culture, and so far this month, I am doing rather well…

Half way through September and I have…

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Been to the Poetry Book Fair and met the brilliant Fancesca Kay (Whatever you’re planning for your garden next season, I wholly recommend obtaining a packet of her Garden Seasons – poems for year round colour & interest)

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The daughters and I have strolled around the British Museum. Both daughters were overawed by the Ancient Egyptian artefacts, big and small.

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Number 2 daughter successfully navigated our way from the BM to the Victoria & Albert Museum – not bad for a thirteen year-old who can still number her trips to London on the fingers of two hands.

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We’ve also been to Bath. Trust us to decide to go at the same time as hoards of Jane Austen reenactment enthusiasts – it was vaguely surreal passing men and women in full Regency gear chatting on their mobile phones. Although watching them dancing in the Assembly Rooms was wonderful – practically stepping back two hundred years.

We also made our pilgrimage to Bath’s girlie paradise, Alexandra May – I’m not sure you can classify this as culture, but it certainly gives me enormous pleasure, and the girls will happily spend an hour working their way along the displays (NB: not suitable for the Other Half, well not mine anyway, he has to go off and do Man Things…)

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And once we’d soaked up plenty of Georgian architecture (and played the compulsory family game of crazy golf – I lost it on the last hole, grrrrrr!), we headed off to Lacock Abbey, once famous as the birthplace of photography, then probably more famous for being a Harry Potter film venue.

The village is being promoted for its many film credits, although for those of us of a certain age, it will always remain Longbourne, from the 1995 TV series of Pride & Prejudice (the Colin Firth, wet-shirt version).

So, lots to keep me going for a week or two. And when I’m not gadding about being a culture vulture, I’m tucked up at home with my eBay find – an Old English textbook – (that’s a textbook on OE, not and old English textbook – somehow I imagine I’m going to have to brush up my grammar).

Hope your September is shaping up nicely.

 

 

-)O(-

 

PS: Just so you know, if you’re seeing any adverts on my blog, it’s WordPress, not me putting them there. If I’m feeling flush one of these days, I’ll go ad-free, until then, please forgive.

Melancholy and excitement…

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Strange sensations today.

The girls have gone back to school after the long holiday. For the first time in ages, we had a real sunny summer and what a difference it has made to us all. Number One Daughter who faces the heavy toil of Year 11 really doesn’t want to go back – and who can blame her – although her request at 7.30am this morning to be home-schooled fell on unreceptive ears. Number Two Daughter, who starts at the Upper school today, is full of excitement – I’m glad I’m not a teacher.

Not having the girls around, makes me feel a touch melancholy, but on the other hand, I am finally able to get back to what passes as my ‘normal’ routine – last night I excavated my desk so that today I could blog for the first time in weeks – a certain relief is beginning to flow in the veins.

The start of the new school year always gives me a buzz, which hasn’t anything to do with school, but everything to do with new beginnings, fresh starts and heightened enthusiasm. Especially strong this September I suspect because the summer has been so good and I’m definitely more refreshed and reinvigorated than I’ve been for quite some time.

And in the spirit of clean sheets – I think I should repent of my sort of failure – which is to admit to having failed on the no new book buying challenge. I gave it my best shot, I kept a wish-list instead of pressing Buy With One Click, I avoided the charity shops, I tried very hard- but during the summer I just couldn’t hold out any more. I now know, that being able to read something that sparks my curiosity is more important to me than I’d realised before. And of course reading blogs is a potent way to be pointed in the direction of writers who I’d never otherwise have encountered – and I love that.

So for anyone managing to sustain the challenge, I admire you enormously – but now I have confirmed the disappointing extent of my will-power.

Over the last few blogging-free weeks, I’ve been thinking about what I want to spend my energies on for the next few months. This has boiled down to:

Getting back into regular yoga practise (as I get older, maintaining flexibility becomes more and more important – my mother was a tremendous example of what could be done, and I’m determined to follow her example – and I’m lucky enough to have an excellent teacher who integrates the spiritual elements smoothly, which I appreciate even more than the physical exercise).

Getting to grips with the garden: No chance of turning into a Gertrude Jekyll, just the realisation that much needs to be done and finally, after only living in this house for fifteen years, beginning to get a feel for what I actually want in the garden.

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And finally – don’t laugh, I’m going to teach myself Old English. I’ve been intrigued by the evolution of the English language ever since I studied Chaucer for A Level, but over the summer, the programmes about the Anglo-Saxons, with Michael Wood, sparked a new interest in the early origins. Each programme showed texts written from the time of King Alfred and his immediate successors, and had extracts of the texts being voiced, with subtitles. It was so delicious to listen to, but also I found myself desperate to be able to read the texts. I’ve investigated text books, although not yet decided which one(s) to go for – they seem to vary from strictly academic, deeply grammatical, to the Old English equivalent of Teach Yourself in a Weekend. If any of you wonderful readers have any old books on OE sitting around unloved, or any advice on teachers, courses or text books – please get in touch!

Of course all this will take place against the background of daily life and endless tent stitch – life’s never boring…

Flights of fancy…

You know how it is, nothing happens for weeks on end, then suddenly everything is going mad and you’re racing to keep up.

It’s been like that here for the last few days – but in a fabulous way.

A friend of ours loves to fly, and last weekend he decided the weather was perfect for a trip around the Scottish Islands and Highlands. The Highlands are my favourite place – and so I leapt at the chance to go hopping around.

We went up the West coast, stopping first at Gigha – the airstrip is a field – you can just about see it in the picture…

Gigha
Gigha
Not exactly Heathrow...
Not exactly Heathrow…
The Gigha Hotel - gorgeous.
The Gigha Hotel – gorgeous.
Iona abbey
Iona abbey

Next day and a view of Iona and Staffa

Not the most dramatic view of Fingal's Cave
Not the most dramatic view of Fingal’s Cave

Then we were off to land at the airstrip at Barra – yes, it’s a beach.IMAG1993

The view of Barra airstrip from the air traffic control tower – that’s our plane on the sand

The islands going out towards Stornoway are unlike anything I’d seen before.DSCN3703 DSCN3715 IMAG2034

And then we stopped for fuel at Stornoway

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And then off around the coast of the mainland….

my favourite beach at Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
my favourite beach at Sandwood Bay, Sutherland

Then the lighthouse at Cape Wrath

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And Balnakiel Beach

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We spent the night near Forres and then off again from Inverness down the Great Glen – I kept looking, but no sign of Nessie…

DSCN4012 DSCN4027 IMAG2139 IMAG2166 IMAG2213Watching the mountains of Aran come out of the clouds.

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Before flying back through the Lake District and home.

Now I’m back it all feels rather like a dream and I have to keep pinching myself to remember that it really happened. An amazing experience I’m sure I’ll never forget.

Getting back into the swing of things at home again now and looking forward to the girls breaking up for summer. Hope you’re enjoying the weather and staying cool.

 

PS:

Theresa, do you happen to know what this is? He was flying about on the sand dunes at Barra – so pretty and strikingly vivid.

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A churchy day out in York…

Warning: this post contains gratuitous references to bell-ringing. Anyone with allergies to bells should stop reading now.

York is one of my favourite cities in the UK, and I was delighted to be able to spend the day there last Saturday.

Now of course there’s more than enough to keep you happy and occupied in York for days on end, but we were there for a bell-ringing event, so inevitably the day was dominated by visiting churches.

York Minster is one of the granddaddies of gothic architecture and an absolute ‘must-see’ at least once in a life-time, but we started our visit to York with a very special tour of the two towers of York Minster that house the incredible Minster bells. For bell-ringers, the best bit was the fact that a peal was being rung during our visit, so we could see, hear (and feel) the sound of the bells in action.

The NW tower houses Great Peter, a huge bell, one of the biggest in the UK (10 tons), which sounds the hours, and the quarter bells.

If you want some idea of how Great Peter sounds try this YouTube clip here (but imagine it so loud your teeth rattle).

The SW tower holds the ringing bells. As they were being rung, I didn’t take pictures, (I was too scared I’d drop the camera into a swinging bell). We went up onto the roof of the SW tower to get one of the most amazing views of the city. The weather was so good we could see for miles. (Actually the sky was that amazing deep blue, but I’ve had to adjust the pictures to show the details). I just adore the gargoyles on the pinnacles.

Click on the pictures for a better view.

After enjoying our very noisy tour, we strolled along to St Olave’s Church in Marygate.

This was a wonderfully gentle antidote to the size and magnificence of the MInster. Of all the churches we visited on Saturday, this was my favourite. You know that feeling in some churches of serenity, calm, peacefulness – well that’s St Olave’s.

The font cover soars into the air – click the picture to see it better.

By contrast, St Wilfrid’s church, built close to the Minster is all about sturdy Victorian values. As an example of its type, it is pretty amazing, but my own response was to feel over-powered.

Some of the family went in search of other bells, but I went in search of refreshment (lager shandy – not my normal lunchtime habit, but it was soooo hot!).

Later we headed off to St Lawrence’s Church, just outside the city walls. The girls were competing in a striking competition there, so mother mode took over and I didn’t take photos – in fact I sought shade and a place to sit where I wouldn’t be in the way. St Lawrence’s is another Victorian church, built on the ground of an earlier church. All that now remains of the original church is the tower – a slightly forlorn relict. But the most poignant element for me was this derelict tomb – so sad and with a rambling white rose growing wild across it.

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After the excitement of the competition, we took a very slow walk back to St Helen Stonegate, which was acting as the hub for all the ringing events. They had a little mini-ring set up and the girls enjoyed having a go – it’s quite different to the normal ringing we do. The lovely people at St Helen’s laid on lashings of tea and cake – they understand their audience very well indeed!

I’m afraid I gave up taking ‘proper pictures after that. We went on to St Michael Le Belfry (the church where Guy Fawkes was christened), where the competition results were given. Suffice to say it was extremely exciting and quite out of the blue, our team won. I’m not going to embarrass any of them with ‘proud mother type’ pictures – but it was fantastic and I am incredibly proud of all the young ringers who took part.

During the afternoon, I’d re-visited some old-haunts in the city. I was disappointed to find that Taylors of Stonegate had been renamed Betty’s – I know it’s all the same firm, but Taylors had a certain something special. I nodded at the Judges Lodgings – which used to be my favourite place to stay in York, I’ve spent some happy times there. And of course, no visit would be complete without saying hello to this little chap…

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Apologies for a rather indulgent post – it was a beautiful day I will always remember.

Now, get out into the garden and soak up some rays!

The Chef lives…

In the 1970s, my mum became the proud owner of a Kenwood Chef. She was an enthusiastic cake maker (and eater for that matter, although unlike me she had hollow legs, but that’s another story…). She must have used it practically every week for the next thirty plus years. When she died and we cleared her house, the Kenwood was still sitting in the corner of the kitchen, unaware that it had helped make its last cake.

It’s been boxed up in our garage ever since.

Until that is, a couple of weeks ago.

Because some niggling little voice has been calling to me from the garage – ‘Why not use the Kenwood – it even has a bread-hook you know…’ and I really fancied making bread…

So in it came. I gave it a good clean, out came the strong bread flour and yeast, in it went, on went the switch, it purred round and round – I smiled. It suddenly went berserk – I switched it off – and then back on again – it whizzed around maniacally, and a nasty electrical smell came out – and then it emitted one very loud and abrupt BANG! I cried.

The Kenwood after Techno-hero had his wicked way with the screwdriver.
The Kenwood after Techno-hero had his wicked way with the screwdriver.

But the advantage of being married to a techno-hero, is that he can take things apart and put them back together again.

He took out his screw-driver, did a considerable amount of muttering, googled  ‘Kenwood repairs’ and now, two weeks and a new resistor later, I have a functioning Kenwood. Hoorah!

According to Techno Hero, this is the blown resistor - umm, yes, he's probably right.
According to Techno Hero, this is the blown resistor – umm, yes, he’s probably right.

I just know my mum is cheering from her fluffy cloud and my dad is thinking what a good job I married someone just like him.

So today, in their honour, the first cake from the repaired Kenwood – is mum’s favourite – a Madeira. (And a loaf is just proving now).

Madeira Cake from Nan's cook book.
Madeira Cake from Nan’s cook book.

I’m very happy indeed.

Here's to the next thirty years service.
Here’s to the next thirty years service.

A dog’s life…

We’ve been up in the Peak District for a few days.

Traditionally, this is the annual holiday when we cycle – there being a fabulous amount of off-road cycle routes in the area.

But since we acquired the delinquent dog, things have had to be rethought.

We hoped that he’d condescend to travel in his own trailer…

IMAG1548Unfortunately, as you can see here, we’re just walking along. Anything approaching a ride and the poor boy was apoplectic.

But take the wheels off the trailer and he thought it made a very acceptable camping kennel…

IMAG1554So we did some walking, some riding in pairs and a lot of taking in the scenery.

IMAG1575 IMAG1572Well any way, we all had a good time, even the boy. Back to the final push before the long school holiday. Lots happening this coming half term so I’m going to have to plan our next holiday – I like to have something to look forward to!

 

 

Learning as I go along…

IMAG1247Blogging is a funny game. Some people seem to be naturals, they start off knowing exactly what they’re about and quickly join the happy melee of Blogland. Some dip their toes into the water of Blogland but soon decide it’s not for them.

And then there are others, the ones somehow hooked on the game, but not quite sure how they should play. I’m one of these.

So I’ve spent the last few months experimenting and trying to find out what works best for me.

When you try out new things, or new ways to look at things, you inevitably learn a lot, and not just about technical details, but also about yourself.

What I’ve discovered is, that I’ve changed quite a lot since I first stepped into Blogland.

The big interests in my life remain textile art, especially needlepoint, and history, particularly visiting historic places in the UK. But sometimes I want to talk about family life, sometimes about the spiritual journey, sometimes about art and often about the nature I encounter every day.

Finding a way to blog across these topics is what I’ve been learning about.

So today I’ve started to revamp Mostly Motley – please bear with me as I tweak it about a bit.

My aim is to use this as my blogging home, whilst keeping needlepoint and historic topics off in their own dedicated space. (If you do find either of these topics fascinating – I suppose there may be one or two of us?, the links are on the side-bar, or in the menu at the top of this site. I’d be delighted if you went to have a look around).

Here at Mostly Motley, I’m giving myself permission to write about the topics that have become closer to my heart over recent years.

I’ve been giving my creative streak an airing, so there might be some scratchy offerings to show you what I’ve been doing.

I’ve found myself in that mid-life stage where exploring spiritual matters starts to matter more, so I expect to witter about that from time to time.

And the last few months have proved to me just how important an appreciation of the natural world around us is to me. I increasingly find myself drawn to the beauty I see in nature around me, so I’d expect to have quite a lot of posts on that topic.

Finally, wherever I go on my creative travels or on my spiritual journey, I am always at heart a wife and mother, and I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t talk about family life on the odd occasion.

So here is the latest incarnation of Mostly Motley. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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